When investigative journalist Smita Agarwal arrives back in India to help out an injured friend, it’s the last trip she wants to take. Born in Mumbai, Smita vowed never to return to the country after her family immigrated to America. Yet as she takes over a story from her friend, she gets drawn in deeper to the truth of what happened to Meena, a Hindu woman whose Muslim husband was brutally murdered in an honor killing, and finds herself drawn deeper to India.
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Author Thrity Umrigar delves into deep-seated issues within India’s rural communities, tackling religious bigotry, misogyny, cultural bias, the legacies of colonialism, Partition and more in this gripping tale of a search for justice. Through it all, the novel is beautifully told and strikes a hopeful tone. Smita is convinced that her words and her work will help Meena, who was horribly burned and disfigured in the attack by her own brothers, and works tirelessly to make it so.
As Meena’s case winds its way through Indian courts while her brothers walk free, Smita grapples with her complicated feelings about Indian culture and her own identity as an Indian American as she tries to bring attention to the atrocities committed in the name of hate. The two women draw closer, confronting difficult truths together about power, tradition, and love.
Umrigar, who drew on some of her family’s own experiences in India before immigrating, felt especially called to tell this story from Smita’s perspective of a relative ‘outsider.’ In an essay accompanying the book’s release, Umrigar speaks movingly of her conviction that the biases that lead to honor killings appear everywhere, including in America, and that it takes all of us to work against letting hate gain a foothold in our societies.
“Honor” is the ninth novel for Umrigar, who has also authored popular children’s books and is a professor of English at Case Western Reserve University. “Honor,” also a Reese’s Book Club pick, is available now.
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